Many published articles advise readers how to attract birds to their yard or garden. Most bird lovers know that a bird-friendly habitat helps: trees and shrubs for shade, perching, nesting, roosting and hiding. Water and flowers, as well as seed and nectar feeders, are equally productive, and the list of plants specific to attracting certain birds, such as tubular flowers for hummingbirds and orioles, is extensive. Having spent hours researching this, however, I find little about one of my favorites, the pomegranate.
If you live in the southwest, you can grow pomegranates easily (the ‘Wonderful’ truly is; growing quickly and producing fruit soon after planting.) The colorful flowers are big and beautiful, and the hard-skinned pomegranates that follow look like red Christmas ornaments from late summer into December. Inside, pomegranates are filled with hundreds of sweet arils, little sacs of juice surrounding a tiny seed. The arils are embedded in a fibrous pith that winds through the fruit. Needless to say, this combination of sweet juice and seeds is irresistible to many birds, including mockingbirds, finches, cardinals, quail and thrashers. In the southwest, one of my favorite birds, the Verdin, is a pomegranate addict. If you want Verdins in your yard, plant a pomegranate.
For those living where pomegranates won’t grow, all is not lost. Many groceries carry them. Simply buy one and cut it in half. Drive a three-inch finishing nail into the top of a 5-foot wood post, such as a tree stake, leaving half of the nail exposed. Impale a half pomegranate on the exposed nail, fruit side up, and get ready for birds. Pomegranate halves also can be placed on any adequate holder, such as tree limbs or even within a suet cage.
It’s November now, and some of my over-watered pomegranates have split open. This morning I watched a Verdin, with his/her (they look the same) yellow-green head and red shoulder epaulets pluck arils from a split fruit, carelessly spilling some in the process. Six feet below, a female Gambel’s Quail watched the industrious Verdin patiently. As each errant aril hit the ground, the quail bobbed her head, retrieving the juicy seed sac. She then tossed her head back and gobbled the aril down. I’m not sure which bird was having the better time.